In our work as private investigators, we appear regularly in court. Most of the time we are presenting evidence and supporting clients and barristers.
But recently one of our investigators decided to represent himself in court, on an “offence” – which he strenuously denied – leading to a court appearance.
You might think this unusual, but it’s estimated that as many as 40% of court cases involve unrepresented defendants. This has resulted largely as a result of government changes to Legal Aid. The swingeing cuts mean many people can no longer afford to hire a barrister to represent them in court.
It seems ludicrous that we pride ourselves on having a justice system based on “innocent until proven guilty”, if we do not give those who are most vulnerable the means to properly defend themselves.
Private Investigators and the Courts System
As investigators, we are used to the court system. Yet even we at times find it an intimidating place. The language used by those in the legal professions can be confusing and incomprehensible. The way a court case proceeds, from who stands where, to what you are allowed to say and when, can seem impenetrable.
Appealing against an unfair parking fine is one thing – but what if you had to defend yourself against something more serious? Would you know where to start?
First of all, you’d need a crash course in Law. Then a glossary to understand all the terminology. A huge amount of self-confidence would also be needed, coupled with an ability to convince people you know what you are talking about. And that’s before you even set foot in a court room.
It is of course possible to defend yourself, but the general advice from those in the know is not to do it. In our role as private investigators, we’d agree with that. It’s a difficult, complex and sometimes frightening world.
It cannot be right that those with the finances can pay for a good legal defence, whilst those with little get nothing. It seems wrong to us that the vulnerable litigant has to rely on charitable organisations such as Access for Justice http://www.atjf.org.uk/ to get someone to represent them in court.
As for our own self-representing private investigator – well, he fought the law and he won. But then he has over 20 years’ experience in investigations and in the law…